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TUMULUS IOANNIS GA-
leatii Vicecomitis
primi Ducis
Mediolani.[1]

The tomb of Gian Galeazzo Visconti, first Duke of Milan

Pro tumulo pone Italiam, pone arma ducesque,[2]
Et mare quod geminos mugit adusque sinus.
Adde his barbariem[3] conantem irrumpere frustra
Gallus uti, & Teuton alpe & hyberus aquis.[4]
Anguiger autem[5] summo sistens in culmine dicat,
Quîs parvis magnum me super imposuit?

Instead of the tomb, put Italy, put weapons and leaders, and the sea which roars right up to the twin curving coasts. Add to these the barbarian host, trying in vain to burst in, like the French, the German over the Alps and the Spanish by sea. But the one holding a snake, standing on the roof of the tomb, may well say: Who has put me, great as I am, on top of little things?

Notes:

1.  Gian Galeazzo Visconti (1351-1402), created first Duke of Milan in 1395. Noted for his ruthlessness, he united most of the Po valley under the rule of Milan for the first time, defeated Bologna, and set his sights on Florence until his death saved that city.

2.  This epigram is based on Anthologia graeca 7.73 (by Geminos, but wrongly attributed to Germanicus in the sixteenth century). The Greek epigram is concerned with what would be a worthy tomb for the Greek hero Themistocles, who was buried in a very simple grave. It suggests one with representations of Salamis and the Persians, recalling the hero’s most famous exploit, the victory over the Persians at the battle of Salamis. Likewise, memorials of Visconti’s achievements are proposed here.

3.  ‘the barbarian host’, i.e. the ‘barbarian’ French, who were induced to become involved in the Milan/Florence conflict and were defeated by Visconti. The French are mentioned specifically in the version of this poem found in Selecta epigrammata p.254, where 1.4 reads: Gallus ut et Theuton Alpe et Hyberus aquis, ‘like the Gaul and the Teuton via the Alps and the Spaniard via the sea’. In Alciato’s day, the French continued to overrun the Italian peninsula and attempt to dictate its internal affairs.

4.  This line is completely changed in later editions.

5.  This is presumably a figure of the Duke of Milan, whose arms included a snake; see [A31b001]. In the accompanying woodcut, we have written on a snaking ribbon held by a figure the Greek version (taken from the original Greek epigram) of the Latin words quoted in l.6.


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    DOCTOS DOCTIS OB-
    loqui nefas esse.

    It is wicked for scholars to wrangle with other scholars

    Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [F1r]

    Quid rapis heu progne vocalem saeva cicadam,
    Pignoribusque tuis fercula dira paras?[1]
    Ac stridula stridulam[2], vernam verna hospita laedis,
    Hospitam, & aligeram penniger ales avem?
    Ergo abiice hanc praedam, nam musica pectora summum est,
    Alterum ab alterius dente perire nefas.

    Alas, Procne, why, cruel bird, do you sieze on the melodious cicada and prepare a dreadful banquet for your young? A whistler yourself, you harm the shrill singer; a summer visitor, you hurt another fine-weather caller; a guest, you harm a guest; a feathered bird, you hurt another winged creature. So let this prize go. It is the greatest sin for hearts devoted to the Muses to perish by one another’s tooth.

    Notes:

    1.  The reference is to the legend of Procne’s metamorphosis into a swallow. See [A50a070]. For swallows catching cicadas, see Aelian, De natura animalium 8.6.

    2.  Textual variant: Stridula stridentem.


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